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I am a NZ citizen living in Mexico. I travel regularly to the US (usually just for visiting friends or for shopping).

I have been asked to work for a new US company, either as a remote/foreign employee or as a contractor.

However, due to my regular travel to the US, and due to my proximity the potential to even do short work trips (1-2 weeks), I am concerned that I may cross over what is allowed on my B1/B2 US Visa.

According to @dlanod's answer to Travel to USA while working remotely for US company, the B1 Visa allows for meetings, contract negotiations, training, and conferences, but I don't know whether I would also be allowed to actually visit the offices with my laptop and work for a week (while my family probably sight-sees).

With my B1 Visa am I legally OK to do work in the US for a US based company as a foreign-based employee? Or as a foreign-based contractor?

If relevant, the main reason to work at the offices for a week or two would be because this would enable us to conduct working meetings, so perhaps this fits under "consult with business associates"?

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    It's all very gray. – phoog Sep 24 at 18:38
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Although you have good intentions, business visa purposes are outlined in this State Department pdf document...

And they state specifically that you cannot accept income from a US based company/entity while visiting on a B1 visa.

Purpose of Your Travel

Conference, meeting, trade show, or business event attendee

About Your Temporary Visit

Will receive no salary or income from a U.S based company/entity. For scientific, educational, professional or business purposes.

Your best bet is to obtain the proper business visa. That is also outlined in the same pdf document:

Purpose of Your Travel

Employment/work

About Your Temporary Visit

Payment, income, salary will be paid to you by U.S. based company or business entity.

Type of Visa

Temporary Worker Visa (H, L, O, P, Q visas and more)

Key Steps – What You Must Do

U.S. employer files petition with USCIS. After petition approval, visa application at U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

And to answer your question...

With my B1 Visa am I legally OK to do work in the US for a US based company as a foreign-based employee? Or as a foreign-based contractor?

If you are receiving income/payment from the US company, then no, you are not allowed to work inside the USA on a B1 visa. You need to have your employer sponsor the correct business visa for you. The State Department suggests petition based H, L, O, P, Q visas.

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    I expect a New Zealander would use the VWP rather than a B-1 visa. The allowed activities are the same, but the duration of stay is limited to 90 days and cannot be extended. But some sources say that a B-1 visitor (and, by extension a VWP visitor) cannot receive income from a US source during the visit. – phoog Sep 24 at 21:39
  • @phoog good catch. it's true, they cannot receive any income on a B1 visa, so that voids the entire scenario. – AussieJoe Sep 24 at 22:10
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    @phoog I expect a New Zealander would use the VWP rather than a B-1 visa - I'm unsure of what you are referring to with this comment? I have a B1 Visa, so I wouldn't be entering the US through the VWP. My understanding was that the VWP wouldn't allow anything the B1 doesn't allow? – Midavalo Sep 24 at 22:17
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    @AussieJoe on the other hand, a foreign company can send its employees to visit a client in the US and pay them while they are there, and receive payment from the client while they are there, so if Midavalo has a separate legal entity that bills the US client, this might be possible. Though, frankly, it doesn't make sense that whether it is allowed should depend on the legal structure of a business visitor's business, so maybe it's allowed no matter what, and maybe it's forbidden no matter what, though that seems unlikely. That's why I said it's all rather gray. – phoog Sep 25 at 4:25
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    @phoog when we first moved to Mexico we had flown to the US under VWP then driven to Mexico. Towards the end of that initial VWP 90 days we were starting to get more questions about what we were doing and where we lived, including on occasions being required to show our Mexico Residency ID cards etc. We were advised multiple times by CBP that it would make things smoother if we had Visas, and friends had advised they had done the same. Certainly a lot less questions and quicker process since getting the visas. I guess if we were just occasional visitors under VWP it would have been fine – Midavalo Sep 25 at 4:37

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